Calcutta, home to more than 10 million people, is the commercial nerve-centre of the East, with major industrial plants, textile mills and corporate units. The Gateway to India, till 1912, and the capital of the Raj in India, it still bears the Victorian imprint on its streets and structures, with regal edifices, grubby alleys, bustling bazaars, elegant hotels, and people from all walks of life.
The city is a hub of activity in the realms of music, theatre, arts, and sports. Calcutta has always prided itself on the many luminaries it has sent forth, be it Tagore, Satyajit Ray, or Mrinal Sen. The intense dedication to the arts manifests itself in a plethora of festivals, dance, music performances and other cultural events. The Calcuttans are also famous for their all-consuming passion for sports, especially, football and cricket.
Calcutta, was the capital of British India and also of the province of Bengal. It is situated in 22°34'N and 88°24'E, on the left or east bank of the Hugli River, about 80 miles from the sea. As of 1901, including its suburbs, it covered an area of 27,267 acres, and contained a population of 949,144. Calcutta and Bombay had long contested the position of the premier city of India in population and trade; but during the decade 1891-1901 the prevalence of plague in Bombay gave a considerable advantage to Calcutta, which was comparatively free from that disease. Calcutta lay only some 20 ft. above sea-level, and extended about 6 miles along the Hugli, and was bounded elsewhere by the Circular Canal and the Salt Lakes, and by suburbs which formed separate municipalities.
Though Calcutta was called by Macaulay "the city of palaces," its public buildings could not compare with those of Bombay. Its chief glory was the Maidan or park, which was large enough to embrace the area of Fort William and a racecourse. Many monuments found a place on the Maidan, among them being equestrian statues of Lord Roberts and Lord Lansdowne, which face one another on each side of the Red Road, where the rank and fashion of Calcutta took their evening drive. In the northeastern corner of the Maidan the Indian memorial to Queen Victoria, consisting of a marble hall, with a statue and historical relics, was opened by the prince of Wales in January 1906. Calcutta owed its commercial prosperity to the fact that it was situated near the mouth of the two great river systems of the Ganges and Brahmaputra. It thus received the produce of these fertile river valleys, while the rivers afforded a cheaper mode of conveyance than any railway. In addition Calcutta, situated midway between Europe and the Far East, formed a meeting-place for the commerce and peoples of the Eastern and Western worlds.
The history of Calcutta practically dates from 24 August 1690, when it was founded by Job Charnockof the English East India Company. In 1686 the English merchants at Hugli under Charnock's leadership, finding themselves compelled to quit their factory in consequence of a rupture with the Mogul authorities, retreated about 26 miles down the river to Sutanati, a village on the banks of the Hugli, now within the boundaries of Calcutta.
The chief event in the history of Calcutta is the sack of the town, and the capture of Fort William in 1756, by Suraj-udDowlah, the nawab of Bengal. The majority of the English officials took ship and fled to the mouth of the Hugli river. The Europeans who remained, under John Zephaniah Holwell, were compelled, after a short resistance, to surrender themselves to the mercies of the young prince. The prisoners, numbering 146 persons, were forced into the guard-room, a chamber measureing only 18 ft. by 14 ft. 10 in., with but two small windows, where they were left for the night. It was the 20th of June; the heat was intense; and next morning only 23 were taken out alive, among them Holwell, who left an account of the awful sufferings endured in the "Black Hole."
Till 1912, Calcutta was the capital of India, when the British moved the capital city to Delhi. In 1947, when India gained freedom and the country got partitioned between India and Pakistan, Calcutta was included in the Indian part of Bengal.
Calcutta was officially renamed as 'Kolkata' from 01 Januray 2001.
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